— The Volkswagen emissions scandal is taking a toll across the world and has heightened the issue of how other automakers may have their own emissions problems, especially outside the U.S.
Germany Recalls 630,000 Vehicles to Check Emissions
German officials said Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Opel, Porsche and Volkswagen will recall 630,000 vehicles after the automakers used a loophole in the law to justify higher emissions. Although what the automakers are doing is technically legal, German officials believe the loophole is being used to constantly alter emissions levels, all in the name of protecting the engines.
Engine management systems are used to switch off emissions treatment to improve engine performance, but German authorities believe the software is used too often. Each time the emission systems are held back, emission levels increase, including levels of nitrogen oxide emissions that have been the downfall of VW.
It's not clear why German officials are surprised by automakers taking advantage of loopholes in the law, but the 630,000 recalled vehicles will be checked to ensure they are not emitting more emissions than necessary.
Fiat Cheating on Emissions Tests?
Fiat is also under the watchful eyes of German authorities as the Bild am Sonntag newspaper reports the automaker may have problems with its diesel vehicles.
Bild says Fiat is using an emissions system that emits nitrogen oxides at legal levels during the first 22 minutes after starting the car. Once time has expired, the emissions increase and shoot above legal limits.
Based on media reports, the Robert Bosch auto parts company told German authorities what Fiat was doing, specifically about the Fiat 500X model.
German emissions tests typically run about 20 minutes, plenty of time for German regulators to see normal nitrogen oxide emission levels before the nitrogen oxides increase to real-world levels.
UK: Real-World Driving vs. Laboratory Testing
A report from UK transportation authorities says 37 vehicle models were found to emit nitrogen oxide emissions higher than allowed by law. However, the higher emissions were discovered during real-world driving on roads and not in the laboratory. According to current laws, a vehicle must pass emissions tests in a lab setting only.
The finding shouldn't be too surprising considering real-world use of a car can be completely different than what happens during tests conducted in a lab setting. Importantly, none of the vehicles other than Volkswagen were found to be equipped with emissions defeat devices. Nevertheless, all the cars emitted nitrogen oxides between three to 14 times higher than allowed by law.
Transportation officials tested nitrogen oxide emissions of brands from BMW, Ford, General Motors, Vauxhall and Volkswagen. Older cars were tested against a lower standard for emissions and newer vehicles were tested against the more stringent Euro 6 standards.
Although current UK legal standards apply only to lab tests, everything will change in 2017 when automakers will have to meet standards for real-world driving. Meeting newly created real-world standards could greatly increase manufacturing costs to automakers, which will then be passed on to consumers.